- Our trip had to fit inside of two weeks of vacation
- We preferred to visit fewer cities and to see them more thoroughly (resulting in our choice of Rome and Venice
Rome – the best areas are near big Piazzas like the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona or the Pantheon. Another great area is the Campo dei Fiori. I would avoid staying near the termini (train station) or too far from the main attractions. Rome hotels are small and expensive so another great option is to rent an apartment for a week. You also get a more authentic experience by staying in a neighborhood. Here are a couple of links to good sites (I used the first one on my last trip) If you do a hotel, you can find nice ones in the $300+ per night range.
Venice – is small but there are tons of hotels. The best are near the Rialto bridge or St. Mark’s cathedral, but they are very expensive. I would try to stay on the Grand Canal and you can find very nice hotels on the canal from $225 – $350 (some hotels can run $500+ per night).Use Trip Advisor to research hotels in both cities and use a site like orbitz or travelocity to book the best deals (they often offer specials that are much better than the hotel websites). One other option is bidding on priceline or hotwire (a little more risky, but a lot less $). If you want to bid let’s discuss tips and tricks.Activities in Rome
- The Piazzas – Navona, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Poppolo, Barberini.
- Ancient Rome – the Colosseum, Forum, Arches of Constantine and Titus, the Campidoglio, the Vittoriano, etc.
- The Vatican – underground tour (most unique experience!), St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums (which end at the Sistine Chapel).
- Other Churches – St. Paul’s, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro in vincoli (where Michelangelo’s Moses is located).
- Other must do’s – the Mamertine prison (where Peter was held for trial), the Catacombs (where the early church met), Villa Borghese (Rome’s Central Park) along with the Borghese Galleries (if you like museums), and Castel Sant’Angelo (also don’t miss the Bernini Angel bridge which crosses the Tiber from the Castel back to Rome).
- Rome has soooooo much history that the only way to really appreciate it is with guided tours. These tours are mostly directed by art and history majors and they bring the city to life. Some of my favorite companies are: presto tours, rome walks, and through eternity. rome-day-tours.com is also supposed to be good, but I have not used them yet.
Activities in Venice
- The Grand Canal, The Rialto bridge, St Mark’s Cathedral and Square, The Bell Tower, The Doge’s palace, The Riva market, Ca’ d’Oro, Murano island, the bridge of sighs, Accademia (if you like museums)
- While in Venice you must also do a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal.
- There are also great classical music concerts held at churches throughout out the city (in Rome as well). As you will note, the number of activities in Venice is much lower than the number in Rome.
- Doing a walking tour of Venice is a great way to see the city (presto tours and viator.com have some great options).
For both cities, a great site for getting to get more info on activities and lodging is http://www.aviewoncities.com/_cityindex.htm. You can also use a guide like Frommer’s or Eyewitness guides.
- Day 1: Fly out in the afternoon (flight arrives in Rome the next AM)
- Day 2 – arrive Rome early AM, get through customs and take a train to the city center from which you can cab it to your hotel. If you guys can get some sleep on the plane (we’ll talk later about tricks for this), we can get you on European time on day 1 and make you pretty productive. Focus on the big Piazzas this day (The Pantheon, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, The Piazza Navonna, etc.) (good for a tour)
- Day 3 – is all about the Vatican (underground tour, St. Peters, the Vatican museums, the Sistine chapel) (good for a tour)
- Day 4 – is Ancient Rome (the Colosseum, the Forum, the Arches of Constantine and Titus, Campidoglio hill which is crowned by Michelangelo’s magnificent piazza, the Vittoriano, etc. (must do with a tour or you’ll be staring at meaningless rubble)
- Day 5 – is Catacombs and churches (Via Apia Antica, Catacombe di San Callisto, Michelangelo’s Moses, St Peter’s prison,etc.) (catacombs require tour)
- Day 6 – St. Paul’s basilica, Villa Borghese
- Day 7 – “odds and ends” (Campo de Fiore, Piazza del Poppolo, Castel Sant’Angelo, etc.)
- Day 8 – train trip to Venice (trip is 4-5 hours), check in to hotel and stroll the Grand Canal.
- Day 9 – the Rialto bridge, St. Mark’s square and Cathedral (good day for tour to acclamate to the city)
- Day 10- the Doge’s palace, bell tower and Riva market
- Day 11 – Murano (glass blowing factories)
- Day 12- Ca’ d’Oro, bridge of sighs, Accademia
- Day 13 – Head home from Venice
At this point (month ahead of time) the most important thing to do is to finalize your dates and get your plane and train tickets. Afterward, you must immediately schedule your Vatican underground tour. To do so, follow this link (http://saintpetersbasilica.org/Necropolis/ScaviTour.htm) to the Vatican excavation office and request a tour date ASAP. Once your date is confirmed, you can nail down the Rome itinerary and schedule your other tours. Hotels are not critical at this second, but I would get on those in the next 2-3 weeks.
Other comments made later
Your hotels are a little far from the main action, but in nice areas. In Rome, you are near the Castle St. Angelo/Vatican. This is a residential area and a little quiet at night. I have provided a few links to restaurant recommendations, but my best suggestion is that you get the TripAdvisor city guide app on your iphone.